European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri system -- the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet ever discovered around a star like the Sun. The planet was detected using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile.
They found it by measuring variations in the “wobble” of AC B. (Planets affect the motion of stars by gravitational force. The measurement which found the new planet was small, but astronomers are now so adept at matching “wobble” they can figure out the size of the planet by the degree of movement the planet causes.
The effect is minute -- it causes the star to move back and forth by no more than 51 centimetres per second (1.8 km/hour), about the speed of a baby crawling. This is the highest precision ever achieved using this method.
Until recently, nothing at all had been detected in our nearest neighbouring star system. This is a triple star system, and visually identifying the planet might not be simple, either.
This is now the inevitable next step in space exploration. Four light years isn’t much. Even by the soggy standards of the drivelling idiots obstructing the development of better space drive systems by any means possible, it’s next door. Let's see if it really takes 200 years to travel 4 light years, as these idiots explain.
Which leads me to a survey, strangely enough.
Going to Alpha Centauri?
There's only one question on this survey, but you might appreciate the choice.
Check out the theme from the original Lost In Space, if you haven’t heard it for a while.